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Report: Arsenic in Apple, Grape Juice

Consumer Reports Says Arsenic in 10% of Apple, Grape Juice Samples Too High

FDA: High Arsenic Levels in Some Juice Samples continued...

In a Nov. 21 letter to consumer groups that had urged the FDA to set safety limits for arsenic in apple juice, the FDA hinted that it's getting ready to take action.

"We are seriously considering setting guidance or other level for inorganic arsenic in apple juice and are collecting all relevant information to evaluate and determine an appropriate level," wrote Michael M. Landa, acting director of the FDA Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition.

What "guidance or other level" means is hard to know. The FDA has the authority to make a formal rule setting an absolute tolerance level for heavy metals. But making such a rule is a lengthy process, and one that FDA almost never uses for chemicals.

The Juice Products Association says "juice is safe for consumers of all ages."

In a statement issued in response to the Consumer Reports article, the industry group said: "The juice industry adheres to FDA guidelines and juice products sold in the U.S. and will continue to proactively meet or exceed the federal standards."

Arsenic in Rice, Other Foods

Arsenic in apple juice isn't the only issue. It's also found in chicken, rice, and, according to a June report at a scientific conference, in brand-name baby foods.

According to a 2004 study cited by Consumer Reports, arsenic was found most often in baby foods containing sweet potatoes, carrots, green beans, and peaches.

Rice is also particularly good at soaking up the inorganic, poisonous form of arsenic.

"U.S. rice has among the highest average inorganic arsenic levels in the world -- almost three times higher than levels in Basmati rice imported from low-arsenic areas of Nepal, India, and Pakistan," Consumer Reports says.

Rice from the southeastern U.S. is particularly likely to be contaminated, according to an expert cited by Consumer Reports. But package labels rarely identify the source of the rice inside.

Reducing Arsenic Risk

Here is advice from Consumer Reports for reducing arsenic risk:

  • Test your water if you get it from a well or spring. Municipal water systems already test water for arsenic.
  • Limit how much juice your kids drink. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) says infants under the age of 6 months should not drink fruit juice at all. Up to age 6, kids should drink less than 4 to 6 ounces a day. And those over age 6 should drink no more than 8 to 12 ounces of juice a day.
  • Consider organic chicken. Organic chicken is never given feed laced with arsenic, a common poultry practice. However, organic standards for juice and other foods isn't so clear, as organic fruits may come from orchards with arsenic in the soil.
  • Get tested. If you're worried, ask your doctor to test you or your child for arsenic.

The Consumer Reports report on arsenic in juice was published online on Nov. 30 and will appear in the January issue of the magazine.

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